February 19, 2013

Comedic Acts Dominate CUPB Shows at Cornell

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Correction appended

Over the past year, four of the last six shows the Cornell University Program Board has brought to campus have been comedy acts — including the likes of The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver and Saturday Night Live comedians Kenan Thompson and Seth Meyers. In light of this trend, some students said they wonder why there have not been more non-comedic shows at Cornell.

Richmond Wong ’14, president of CUPB, said that CUPB makes an effort to bring not only comedians but also speakers or lecturers to Cornell each year.

While the majority of the four to six shows CUPB hosts each year are “comedy, we also like to have speakers or large lecture events in one or two of the shows each year,” Wong said.

Ultimately, CUPB decides what performer to invite to Cornell based on what types of shows it thinks students will attend, said Connor McMurtry ’14, selections chair of CUPB.

“We look for the people that we think will be the most popular and that the most people at the school want to see,” McMurtry said. “We brought Billy Joel and Joseph Gordon Levitt and those both sold out. They were incredibly successful — I think everyone that went to them enjoyed them.”

Some students, noting CUPB’s tendency to bring comedic acts to Cornell, said that they hope the organization brings more lecturers, speakers and scholars to campus for future shows.

Amanda Cramer ’15 said that even though comedic performances can be “awesome,” they do not necessarily have a campus-wide appeal.

“[Comedians] only really target one group of people at Cornell. I would really like to see someone who can come in to speak about real life issues,” Cramer said.

Though comedic shows have been popular among the student body, some students, like Carolyn Scheinberg ’15, said that they are usually “hit or miss for a lot of people.”

“[People] tend to judge comedians really harshly,” she said.

Rebecca Gilovich ’15 said that while she has enjoyed attending CUPB’s comedic shows, she would like to see the organization bring intellectual speakers — such as the scholars featured on TED talks — to Cornell.

“It would be awesome to get some speakers like the ones you see on TED talks: poets, architects, musicians [and] psychologists,” Gilovich said.

Echoing Gilovich’s sentiments, Laura Fitzelle ’15 said she “would love to see a few more non-comedic guests” featured in CUPB’s future shows.

“Though I am always happy to be entertained, I also like to be inspired,” Fitzelle said.

Although some students said that there could be more variety in CUPB’s shows, Wong said that, overall, CUPB has continued to invite comedians to perform on campus because of their success with the student body.

“Seth Meyers sold out Bailey Hall in Spring 2012. Having [him] here was fantastic; everyone really loved him,” he said.

Other students also said they appreciate CUPB’s leaning toward comedic acts.

“Jon Stewart was excellent. … I’d love to see comedians like him come back,” Caitlin Arens ’15 said.

Like Arens, Steve Lezynski ’14 said he hopes CUPB continues to bring the likes of Stewart to perform at Cornell.

“I’d [even] like to have Charlie Sheen come speak to see what he’s been up to these days,” he said.

Both Wong and McMurtry said that, in deciding who to invite to campus, CUPB attempts  to garner student opinion and suggestions each year. They said that the University’s club fair, for example, is a useful forum in which to reach out to students for their opinions.

“We try to get as much feedback as possible from the campus,” McMurtry said. “People are always welcome to put down any suggestions or contact us.”

Wong added that while the CUPB’s executive board consists of six representatives, the input from the organization’s general body members — of which he said there are around 60 — is paramount.

“We try to make it as much of a conversation back and forth between the general body and the e-board,” McMurtry said.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that five out of CUPB’s last six shows have been comedic acts. In fact, four of the last six have been comedic shows.

Original Author: Sarah Sassoon